The Difference Between Poutine and Disco Fries

Brooke Newberry
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Some see cat barf, we see romance on a plate.  Poutine is a simple hangover-curing mess of just three, and only three, ingredients.  Its simplicity, social charm, and blue-collar appeal are what make it a famous French-Canadian comfort food. Other than being a hangover smasher, Poutine is known for being totally butchered or over-complicated here in the red white and blue.  Classic poutine is a layering of fries, cheese curds, and brown gravy.  The best part about poutine?  It’s dirty, has a sense of humor, and people are totally OK getting down with it.  See the classic breakdown below.

Start with the French Fries

Use fresh, thick and hand-cut potatoes, fried in lard or canola oil and salted.  

Follow with Cheese Curds

Cheese curds are these elastic little pieces of cheese sometimes referred to as “sqeaky cheese.”  Actually, they’re byproduct milk solids created from an enzyme or bacteria and are formed when cheese makers curdle the milk.  The enzymes cause the coagulation; so they’re almost cheese. The classic curd choice is fromage beaucronne (these are basically cheddar cheese curds).

Pour on some Brown Gravy

You’re looking for a thin, brown, peppery gravy, made from beef, chicken, or mushroom stock, served hot over the fries.  The gravy should be very hot – enough to melt the cheese and make the fries just the right amount of soggy.
  The gravy gets poured on last.

Note: Poutine is best served in a bowl, not a plate.  Bowls help contain the heat.  Street Quebec poutine is served in Styrofoam bowls.

Steaming hot potato chaos is what you’re left with.  Unlike a plate of cheese fries you order to share with your friends, poutine is intended to be an entrée.  Fries as your main: gluttonous, we know, but it totally changes the experience of the dish.  Eat it slowly, savoring each wet bite, not having to worry about snagging the last fry or the best-looking forkfull.

Here’s a classic poutine recipe from Saveur

How To Tell If It’s Not Poutine

Jersey’s “Disco Fries” are not poutine.  We love them just the same, but they’re a plate of fries layered with thicker gravy and mozzarella.  There’s absolutely nothing wrong with chefs experimenting with gravy fries, but they should be calling them gravy fries.  If you can see chunks of meat, it’s not poutine.  If the cheese curds are fried, it’s not poutine.  Basically, if there’s eggs, sausage, chutney, or whatever else laying on top of your 3 basics, it ain’t poutine.

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